Toddler Travel!

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FVB is a frequent flier, no doubt.  Having family all over the country, we need to travel often in order to see everyone!  We first flew with him when he was approximately 3 months old, and have taken him on approximately 8 other trips requiring at least 1, most times 2 flights.  We’ve learned a few things along the way about traveling with a baby/toddler.  The #1 lesson is that you literally never know how it’s going to go…. it could be super smooth, in which case you arrive at your destination, high five each other, and declare yourselves super competent parents who have this traveling thing DOWN.  It was not just luck.  Or, it could go quite poorly, in which case you arrive at your destination, give each other hugs, and blame any mishaps on any number of factors that are COMPLETELY OUT OF YOUR CONTROL!  I.e., baby/toddler’s poor sleep the night before/at nap time, plane conditions (too hot, too cold, too crowded, etc), flight times and/or delays, or airport amenities (no play area, not enough vegan options, etc).  It was just bad luck.

Since hubs and I are super competent parents who are ALWAYS prepared and can think on our feet, we obviously have tons of good tips to share.  The fact that these tips have worked for us is NOT due to the fact that we were lucky to be blessed with a child who travels by air very well.  It’s not luck, people!  It’s just good parenting!*

(*OK, please take all of what you read and throw it out the window.  We seriously are just lucky that FVB is a good flier.  He is NOT good in the car, so we figure this is our repayment. However, I will share our tips and pretend like they are the reason things have gone smoothly.)

FVB Travel Must Haves

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Would you look at that gorgeous backpack??
  1. Backpack.  I went through several bag options before figuring out that the best possible travel bag for carrying on is a backpack.  When we moved in with my mom, I found that she had saved my awesome LL Bean bag from 7th grade (among many, many other treasures) .  In addition to being ULTRA stylish, this bag can hold a lot and wearing it on your back makes it easy somewhat manageable to hold a toddler AND your carry on. I stuff the backpack full of entertainment**, then clip my lunchbox on the top, and snap the portable changing pad on the top as well.  So not only do I have an awesome 90’s backpack on, it’s always fashionably sporting a lunchbox and a changing pad  (I usually try to dress a little bit cute to distract from the backpack/lunch box/ changing pad look). **Entertainment includes:  A gallon size zip lock bag filled with mini ziplock bags of stuff.  This makes it easy to grab on bag at a time.  In addition to the bags, I also bring a notebook and crayons, a few small books, and a dry erase board/marker.  Also, the iPad and toddler headphones.  I try to do a few new things that FVB has never seen before to hold his interest longer.  I hit up either the dollar store, Walmart, or the Target dollar section to find new treasures.  Things that have worked for us include: toy animals, toy cars/trains, small set of building blocks, mini wind up toys, small/simple puzzles, stamps and a stamp pad, stickers, Legos, Post It notes (seriously), a set of gel window clings, and any action figures/dolls/small people (FVB always asks for “a man” while we are traveling).

    Found this mini block set at Walmart!
    Found this mini block set at Walmart!
  2. Travel wallet.  So, FVB has his essentials covered in the giant backpack.  My essentials are:  photo I.D., FVB’s birth certificate, credit card, cash, and phone.  I went online and bought this cross body travel “purse” to hold my things.  Obviously not going for style here, this thing is super functional.  It’s little, holds the essentials, and I don’t have to dig around in a big purse to find anything.  For ultimate coolness, wear it around your neck!
  3. Food. This is where my passion for veganism meets my passion for frugalness.  Airport food is typically overpriced and not super vegan friendly, depending on the airport.  Before we travel, hubs and I research the airports that we are traveling through and see if they have any vegan friendly places.  If we have a long-ish layover and want to plan on eating a meal in the airport (even though I grumble a little bit about the cost), we plan ahead and pick out one or two places that will have options for us.  I use the Yelp app for this and it’s worked out well so far.  Even if we do plan on this, I obviously still fill the lunchbox with stuff– you never know!  I have a few travel nightmares, and one of them is being stuck in an airport or on a plane with no food options.  My typical travel food is: sandwiches, fruit, veggies, nuts, raisins, hummus/guacamole, crackers, and lemons (for squeezing into water.  I know, I’m rolling my eyes, too).  Oh, and if I remember or have room, I throw in an empty portable water bottle.  And one for FVB, too. That way we can fill them at the airport and save ourselves the $4 for a bottle of Fiji water.
  4. Umbrella stroller. These are those really light weight, easy to break down, no frills type of strollers.  We bought one at the Salvation Army for $2, but sadly left in the North Carolina.  On the eve of our next trip, I had to make an emergency trip to Walmart to buy another one.  The most affordable option was $15 (!).  FVB enjoys riding around in his pink/purple stroller and hubs and I enjoy breaking down stereo types every time we use it!  We have FVB ride in it until we get to the gate, then gate check it as we board the plane.

Quick Tips

Loving the window seat!
Loving the window seat!
  1. Sit by the window!  This provides a TON of entertainment.  FVB loves to look out the window and watch the bags being loaded/unloaded and the various people and vehicles moving around before we take off.  He also loves watching out as we taxi down the runway, take off, and as we are climbing up to cruising altitude.  Landing is also interesting.  He loves looking for cars, trucks, trains, water, boats, etc.
  2. If you fly Southwest, and are traveling with a lap child, always ask if the flight is full while you are boarding.  If it isn’t, plop your toddler in the seat next to you and pretend like he has his own seat.  That way you are guaranteed that extra seat and you aren’t paying for it!  I have gotten lucky doing this several times.  Hey, if there are going to be empty seats on the flight anyway, you may as well claim one!
  3. Only use the plane changing “table” if you have to.  Aim for a fresh diaper in the airport bathroom right before boarding the plane.  Unless you have a blow out (or if you have to pee and are traveling solo with baby), stay away from the bathroom. It’s tiny and the changing table is a JOKE.
  4. Look for the “Family” bathrooms in the airports, they are great for when you are traveling alone since you can push the whole stroller into the bathroom with you.  They are big, have their own sink, and most have changing tables.
  5. If you can, have one drink sometime on your trip… either on the plane if you think you can manage without spilling, or during a layover.  So necessary for sanity!
  6. Take as many trips as you can while you have a lap child (under 2) since you don’t have to pay!
Super cool play area in the Chicago Airport!
Super cool play area in the Chicago Airport!

Our philosophy, even before had FVB, was to travel as much as we could afford.  We are so glad that we did as many trips as we did before FVB, and are just as glad to have been able to include him on so many trips during his first two years of life!

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2 comments

  1. tmm

    You neglected to mention that if you happen to be traveling w/ your mother, make sure she does not try to board w/ you during “FAMILIES WITH SMALL CHILDREN” boarding call, as it is ONLY the baby and parents. Unless, of course, you are willing to tell the BW gate attendant that you are, indeed, the babies parents and as a gay couple you will not hesitate to sue the airline for harassment if another word is spoken.

    Reply

  2. Brittney

    Get one drink if you can…that’s the only advice I got from this ????

    Reply

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